Friday Offcuts – 26 November 2021

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Amidst the disruption of Covid-19 lockdowns and Government imposed restrictions on travel and meetings, we’ve profiled three upcoming events in this week’s issue. They’re already set up; most exhibitors are ready to go and delegates continue to sign up to attend early next year. The Residues to Revenues 2022 event will be discussing new bio-fuel extraction, wood handling, drying and transport systems in mid-March and will also be featuring for the first time, a workshop and exhibitions on in-forest chipping equipment from around the globe. Details are contained in this week’s issue.

We feature this week also the first announcement of the rescheduled sawmilling event that’s been set up for local sawmillers and saw-doctors in May, WoodTECH 2022 and we’ve included details on a digital agriculture event, DigitalAg 2022 that will appeal to technology developers from across the forestry sector. Further information is available from each website and more details on these, and other planned tech events will follow later this year and into early 2022. We know it’s being a while since the industry has been able to meet up in person, so a full listing of events lined up for 2022 can be viewed here.

In the new technology space this week we have a world first with Volvo trialling a remote-controlled high-lift wheel loader over a 5G network for forestry operations. They were able to pick up, load and sort logs - not on site – but from hundreds of kilometres away. This opens up the future option of allowing one operator using tele-operation to work across multiple – and sometimes isolated – sites – anywhere around the world. In addition to the safety aspect, it also means loading and unloading of logs could be undertaken during the night – boosting operating efficiencies and productivity.

In New Zealand, Hyundai New Zealand has just unloaded the nation’s first hydrogen-powered truck, the first of five trucks that we’ll be seeing on the nation’s roads next year running freight across the country as part of a real-world demonstration for commercial fleets. And in Canada, the first company in the world to use advanced robotics to automatically assemble mass timber building systems has just been opened. The company is currently working on a project with over 4,200 homes in Canada and the U.S using robotic technology and their own proprietary, automated, software and manufacturing workflows.

And finally, some good news to end the week on. We covered in recent issues the lofty fund-raising goal that AKD had set themselves to help raise awareness and promote the early detection of breast cancer in October. Not only did they meet the target, they smashed it out of the park with AU$176,000 secured for the McGrath Foundation. And in New Zealand, Red Stag Timber announced this week that they’ll be paying their staff and contractors NZ$3,000 bonusses – provided that they’re vaccinated. Details on both stories are contained in this week’s issue. And, that’s it for this week.

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AKD smashes fundraising goal

AKD is delighted to announce that their annual ‘Pink Up October’ initiative has raised over AU$176,000 for the McGrath Foundation, far exceeding their target of AU$100,000. This takes the total raised over the last two years to over AU$250,000, contributing vital funds to this valuable cause.

With breast cancer the most diagnosed cancer in Australia, AKD CEO Shane Vicary is extremely proud of what has been achieved, knowing that every cent is going directly to support those in need, “It is likely that breast cancer has or will touch our lives in some way over our lifetime, whether it be a mother, a wife, a sister, a friend or a co-worker. Raising over AU$176,000 is a huge effort and we have been blown away by the generosity of people and how our team, industry, customers, suppliers and our communities have got behind the cause”.

The AKD community went all out this year to ‘Pink Up’ in support of the cause, from pink shoelaces to pink mohawks, all sites added something unique to the fundraising effort. However, the focus is more than just raising money, with the team committed to raising awareness of the need for breast health understanding and regular screening for the eligible population. “Being aware of breast cancer is not just for October, it is important that this is something you think about regularly. AKD hopes that our activities will motivate people to go and make that appointment and go and get checked,” explains Mr Vicary.

McGrath Foundation CEO, Holly Masters said the Foundation is focused on a future where the free support of a McGrath Breast Care Nurse is available to every person who needs one. “Our mission is to ensure that no one goes through breast cancer without the care of a McGrath Breast Care Nurse. Right now, we need 79 more nurses to meet that goal, all while continuing to fund our existing cohort of nurses.” McGrath Breast Care Nurses provide vital physical, psychological, and emotional support to individuals and their families experiencing breast cancer from the time of diagnosis and throughout treatment.

AKD would like to thank their team, customers, suppliers, communities and shareholders for their efforts and contributions to this year’s Pink Up. “We are extremely proud and grateful” commented Mr Vicary.

Source: AKD

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WoodTECH 2022 - focus on Sawmilling

Third time lucky. In fact, all going to plan, it will be three long years since sawmillers and saw-doctors’ last met up outside of their mill environment. Covid 19 torpedoed the WoodTECH event planned to run in New Zealand in September of this year along with every other event across the region.

Planning for WoodTECH 2022 is now already well underway. It’s based on the well thought out format that we’d set up together with industry and key technology and equipment suppliers from Australasia and around the world for 2021.

The 2022 event is going to provide a unique independent showcase for local companies to evaluate the very latest in innovations, technology and operating practices around; saw design and operation, mill maintenance, wood scanning, sawmilling and mill optimisation.

Again, next year’s event is expected to be one of few sawmilling events that will be run in 2022 – anywhere around the world. It’s planned that New Zealand sawmillers will be able to meet up in person in Rotorua. It will run on 18-19 May 2022. Australian mills, as well as sawmills and technology providers from outside New Zealand, will also be able to live stream for the first time the full two-day tech event. There’s also an opportunity for mill sites that may be unable to bring in all of their key production and operational staff from the mill at one time, to access later the recorded presentations to use for their own on-site meetings, to provide technology and troubleshooting updates or for future staff training.

The WoodTECH 2022 event’s programme is extensive. A one-day conference and exhibitions will run over the two days. In addition, two workshops will be running; a pre-conference workshop titled 'Managing and Making Use of Data to Drive the Business' and post-conference workshop, running just after the conference concludes, titled 'The Wood Processing Skills Pipeline – Broken but Repairable.'

In addition to a raft of exciting new innovations around sawmilling and saw maintenance, a feature of this year’s event will be the number of practical presentations being given (saw guides and lubrication, fine tuning your circular and band saws, making use of machine data in the mill, real time data collection for machine diagnosis and troubleshooting).

A focus this year is also being given to one of the major constraints to increasing production, how we can retain workers and attract younger skills into the industry. A series of presentations around new timber treatment and wood modification technologies have also been able to be built into the 2022 event.

Full details on the programme and format for the sawmilling event can now be found on the event website,

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Changes needed to address Victorian forest wars

The professional association for forest scientists, growers and managers in Australia has expressed its concern at the escalating Victorian forest wars, saying changes are desperately needed in the way the State’s forests are managed. Forestry Australia Vice President Dr Michelle Freeman said the escalating situation in Victoria shows the State’s current approach to forest management is simply not working.

“The worsening forest wars in Victoria that have been playing out in the media and in the courts over recent months highlight an untenable situation for state forest management in Victoria,” Dr Freeman said. “Our communities are being let down and the very health, future and sustainability of our forests is being put at risk by policy failures and lack of decisive Government leadership.

“Two years ago, the Victorian Government announced its policy to end native forest timber harvesting in public native forests by 2030. The Victorian Forestry Plan was pitched as providing a pathway forward for a sustainable future for our forests, renewable timber supply and communities who rely on them. However, since the release of the Plan, conflict between the industry and environmental groups has only intensified and there remains no clear vision for the future of our forests”.

“It is beyond time for the Government to clearly explain to stakeholders and the community how they will deliver the Victorian Forestry Plan amidst the current media furore, the use of lawfare and broader community concern. Genuine and effective dialogue is needed to break the current impasse, and Traditional Owners, whose voices are being drowned out by the acrimony between environmental activists and industry, must be heard.”

Dr Freeman said Forestry Australia, the professional body for forest scientists, managers and growers, strongly advocates for active management, as vital to ensuring the future health and resilience of native forests and the communities who rely on them. “Forestry Australia’s position is that active management, including timber production, is vital to the sustainability of native forests and provides many benefits to Australian society,” Dr Freeman said.

“We need new approaches and a new dialogue around forest management to deliver all forest values, including carbon, biodiversity, water and community needs, such as connection to country, climate change adaptation, fire risk mitigation and local timber supply.

“Our members work in National Parks and conservation agencies, fire services and with multiple use forest managers and we are uniquely placed to help develop landscape solutions to better manage forests. We stand ready to work with the Victorian Government to help achieve solutions that secure these outcomes in Victoria’s forests”.

“The Government must continue to focus on and be guided by the science, including traditional ecological knowledge, to secure the future of our forests. They must step up with strong leadership that works to break the cycle of forest wars and create genuine change, working with regional communities, to ensure our forests are properly managed for all their values. The very future of our forests depends on it.

“As the only professional association for forest science, growing and management in the country we stand ready to work with Government towards reaching a solution.”

Forestry Australia’s (formerly Institute of Foresters of Australia and Australian Forest Growers) Position Paper on Native Forest Harvesting is available here.

Source: Forestry Australia

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Volvo trials remote operation of forestry equipment

Volvo Construction Equipment says it is the first company in the world to trial a remote-controlled high-lift wheel loader over a 5G network in a complex forestry application – in a bid to develop safer, more productive timber processes and explore its potential as an enabler for automation.

The Remote Timber research project is a collaboration between Volvo CE and telecoms operator Telia, alongside timber and paper manufacturer SCA, Mid University Sweden, Skogforsk and Biometria. The tests at SCA’s timber terminal in Torsboda, Sweden, have demonstrated that it is possible to tele-operate a Volvo L180 high-lift wheel loader, from hundreds of kilometres away, says Volvo. The low latency of the 5G network allowed operators to perform the sensitive process of picking, loading and organizing logs remotely.

Tele-operated forestry is expected to deliver improved productivity by allowing one operator to work across multiple – and sometimes isolated – sites around the world. It is also expected to make it both safer, by removing humans from potentially hazardous environments, and more sustainable, through more efficient logistics flows as the loading and unloading of timber can also be done during the night.

Christian Spjutare, advanced engineering program manager at Volvo CE, remarked, “We expect tele-operation to open up far greater opportunities for operators than is currently available. Sometimes it can be difficult to hire people in timber terminals because of their remote locations. But tele-operation allows people to work from any location, no matter the distance, making it a more desirable work setting, with the added advantage of more efficient and sustainable work logistics.”

An important aim of the research project is to explore exactly what is required from an operator perspective in making tele-operation a user-friendly and efficient experience. Because each load of timber can be so varied – from an unwieldly pile of heavy logs through to just a few short pieces of wood – it is vital that the lifting process is carried out with pinpoint accuracy and incredibly precise handling.

As a result, the handler utilizes several connected cameras and sensors located at strategic points around the machine that transmit real-time data via the Telia 5G network back to the control station. The intent of the testing is to both explore how to mature the technology and gather vital feedback from the operators on the optimum placement of those cameras for handling precision.

Volvo CE has been exploring the potential for tele-operation for the past few years across a variety of segments from mining to urban construction. By remote-controlling processes like timber lifting – which are currently too complex to be fully automated – tele-operation becomes an important enabler for automation, allowing for a more gradual integration of automated processes for customers.

Source & photo: automotivetestingtechnologyinternational

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In-field chipping equipment to be showcased

Forest-based biofuels are occupying an increasingly important role in New Zealand’s energy supply. Conversions of large sale industrial heat plants to renewables, including biomass is ensuring that local forest owners and wood harvesting operations are starting to sit up and take notice. The market and demand are already there, it’s increasing and the economics are really starting to stack up.

Aggregating bio-fuel supplies regionally to ensure a reliable and consistent supply to these large end users is now being grappled with. How best to extract or harvest logging residues, procedures and systems that can be used to store, dry, handle and transport these residues or chips are also being trialed and used operationally.

Chipping or grinding at the landing or skid site, chipping at a centralised processing site inside the forest, outside the forest or at a customer’s operation and extracting and delivering loose or bundled logging residues, all require specialised equipment and operations compared to logging operations.

As part of this region’s spotlight being put on the opportunities that are opening up to the forestry industry in utilising forest residues, bin wood, offcuts that until now have been left on landings, short length or malformed logs that won’t meet MDF, pulp-mill or chip export log specifications, a workshop on in-field chipping innovations has been set up for those attending next year’s Residues to Revenues 2022 (R2R) event.

The workshop will be covering new and emerging technologies for processing forest slash, logging residues and stump wood. An informative 90-minute showcase (including equipment that is being brought to the venue for display) featuring major equipment suppliers from around the world has been set up for R2R delegates.

Workshop presenters include;

• Scott Smith, President, Billy Daniels, VP of Engineering & Steve Briscoe, ProGrind Sales Manager, Precision Husky, USA

• Brian Gray, Group V.P. Sales Construction Machinery Solutions Group, Peterson (Astec Group), USA

• Travis Tschumy, Morbark Sales & Dean Pritchard, National Sales Manager, Stevens Group, NZ, and

• George Wilcox, Sales and Marketing Director, CBI and Ecotec, Terex brands, USA

In addition to a global look into some of this new technology, operational experiences and learning's from some of the country’s pioneers in extracting bio-fuel from forest operations will be explored as part of the conference which will follow.

Full details including registration information on the workshops and planned R2R event that runs in Rotorua, New Zealand on 9-10 March 2022 can be found on the event website, Residues to Revenues 2022.

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XCIENT fuel cell truck has landed in NZ

Hyundai New Zealand has unloaded the nation’s first hydrogen-powered truck, the XCIENT FCEV (Fuel Cell Electric Vehicle) at the Port of Auckland. This truck is road-ready, and with a reliable hydrogen supply on tap through Ports of Auckland, it was able to be driven to our Mt Wellington headquarters.

This is the first of five trucks which we will see on the nation’s roads next year running freight across the country in a real-world demonstration within commercial fleets. New Zealand is just the second market outside Korea to commence a multiple truck program. The XCIENT Fuel Cell trucks in Switzerland are in commercial operation. Their fleet has now exceeded more than 2 million kilometres of regular commercial service.

The XCIENT Fuel Cell truck has a manufacturer gross vehicle weight (GVW) of 28 tonnes and a combined gross combination weight of 42 tonnes. It will operate lower than this here due to New Zealand’s road weight limitations, however it illustrates the genuine heavy duty nature of this truck.

Hyundai New Zealand, a NZ-owned company, has secured the trucks from Hyundai Motor Company, with the help of funding from ECCA, to put them into a working demonstration program. The aim is to speed up adoption by helping industry, government and the public grow in confidence to use hydrogen powered trucks.

The trucks will be introduced into an on-road (in-service) demonstration program with specialists in heavy vehicle transport and road transport logistics. Those partners are still to be confirmed. They will be fueled by our own hydrogen refueller until the first group of hydrogen refueling stations are available, which are well underway.

The XCIENT is powered by a 350kw electric motor with 2237Nm of torque. Driving energy is provided by a 180kW hydrogen Fuel Cell system with dual 90kW Fuel Cell stacks combined with a 72kWh battery. Seven tanks make a combined storage capacity of about 32.09kg of hydrogen. The range is about 400km – the driving distance between Auckland and Palmerston North.

The arrival is an exciting milestone - New Zealand is now at the forefront of international efforts to shift heavy vehicle transport to zero emission formats. Each XCIENT Fuel Cell vehicle on our road in place of a diesel truck will save *50 tonnes of C02 per year from being emitted into our environment.

*based on 80,000kms per annum.

Source & Photo: Hyundai New Zealand

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Lessons for NZ in Wood-Based Products report

The Forest Owners Association says the UN Food and Agriculture Organisation has laid down a blueprint for the New Zealand forest and wood industry, with the release of ‘Forest Products in the Global Economy’, as part of the COP26 meeting and events in Glasgow.

The New Zealand Forest Owners Association Chief Executive, and former Chair of the UN Advisory Committee on Sustainable Forest Industries, David Rhodes, says while trees are best known here for their ability to sequester carbon from the atmosphere, the future of forest products, as a replacement for petrochemical sourced materials, is equally important.

“This just released FAO Report details what can be done with both timber itself, and what can be achieved as well using wood materials. Much of it is already well proven technology. What has been lacking is the realisation of the dreadful consequences on the environment if we continue to use vast volumes of fossil fuels, steel, concrete and plastics.” “The FAO identifies what it calls resistance by vested interests in making way for a sustainable bioeconomy, and it says the inertia these interests create “should be actively addressed and tackled.”

The UN FAO Report cites a New Zealand MPI report, issued in 2017, ‘Primary Sector Science Roadmap’ which identified desired potential developments, in particular “new forest ecosystem services such as biorefinery forests, the use of short-rotation trees for biomass and bioenergy products.”

David Rhodes says MPI has updated and begun to act on the 2017 report with a ‘Forest Industry Transformation Plan’, designed to lessen New Zealand’s dependence on log exports, increase timber production in New Zealand and develop new sustainable technologies to utilise large volumes of wood which otherwise may be left in the forest after harvest.

“We are already seeing a move in New Zealand towards using wood fuel to replace coal in school and dairy factory boilers, but the transformation is going to be huge from now on.”

“The FAO cites all sorts of developments, such as using wood fibre to replace viscose and polyester, through ventures such as the Swedish based Tree to Textile AB. Put together, wood derived materials and products will constitute what the FAO Report calls a necessary ‘rethink of the global economic system.”

See the FAO Report here;

See the Tree to Textile AB site here

Source: Forest Owners Association

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Research investment vital to keep our forests safe

In the session ‘Forest health and biosecurity – a good news story’ leaders in the field of Australian forest health and biosecurity came together to highlight current research projects and discuss broader implications for the forestry industry.

The session was part of the 2021 Forestry Australia Conference held in Launceston, Tasmania. Jodie Mason, Forest Research Manager at Forest and Wood Products Australia (FWPA), spoke about the need for increased investment in forest biosecurity and forest research.

Research and development funding has decreased by 80 per cent in the past decade and the number of forest researchers has decreased by 95 per cent (Source: Australian Forest Products Association). To address these issues, Mason worked with a group of FWPA members, through the Grower Research Advisory Committee, and developed eight investment plans to inform and promote investment in forest research, development and extension.

The investment plans were finalised with a budget of AU$53 million over five years, which could deliver an AU$700 million financial benefit to the industry. Over AU$10 million has already been invested in identified priority projects, with funding from industry and the Australian government.

One plan, the damage agents investment plan, focusses on agreed priorities for forest health and biosecurity research. It includes environmental influences like drought and heatwave and long-established physical pests like sirex, leaf beetle, eucalypt weevil and browsing animals, as well as newly established pests such as myrtle rust and giant pine scale.

“The damage agents investment plan identifies RD&E priorities to address current and emerging forest health and biosecurity issues. Tackling these threats is essential for the Australian forest industry to thrive. It’s great to see the industry taking up the challenge with increased levels of investment in these areas,” said Mason.

“The conference was a great opportunity for sharing knowledge and our collective efforts to better protect our forests and grow our industry,” said Mason. “The forest health session showcased the benefits of research investment.”

Source: FWPA

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Victorian timber industry facing fresh crisis

The Victorian timber industry is facing a fresh crisis with contractors and timber workers stood down last week because of more recent injunctions placed on the harvesting of coupes by VicForests. The timber workers union held urgent talks with forest contractors and their national association on Friday about the hundreds of workers stood down or at risk of being stood down as Christmas approaches.

The union is calling on the Andrews Government to urgently act to get contractors and their crews back to work, prevent mills running out of timber and, in the interim, pay the wages of workers that are stood down through no fault of their own but due to Government bungling.

The CFMEU Manufacturing Division National Secretary Michael O’Connor said the Victorian Forestry Plan – a 30-year plan for the industry announced just two years ago – is in tatters. The cornerstone of the Government’s plan was that everyone in the industry – contractors and sawmillers – would get their allocation of wood supply until 2024.

“This commitment in the plan has spectacularly failed,” Michael O’Connor said.

More >>.

Source: mirage news, CFMEU Manufacturing

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Wind & solar farms for NSW forestry land

Wind and solar farms have been earmarked for construction across hundreds of kilometres of NSW government-owned softwood forestry land under proposed changes to the state’s energy laws. Close to 1600 hectares of Forestry Corporation land would be made available for wind turbines and solar farms under a plan that would allow the corporation to boost its income by millions of dollars.

However, the new legislation has prompted concerns within the industry and the Labor opposition that the state government is building the revenue base of the softwood asset to boost its price in a future privatisation. The government was set to privatise the asset - comprising 230,000 hectares of radiata pine forests - for an estimated $1 billion in 2020 but abandoned the plans after the 2019/20 bushfires destroyed about 25 per cent of the plantations.

Treasurer and Energy Minister Matt Kean said the proposed legislation, which is set to be debated in Parliament, would boost renewable energy generation and provide Forestry with an added revenue stream. “Wind turbines and solar panels will be able to be built on Forestry Corp land to help it diversify its income streams and make it more sustainable in the long run,” Mr Kean told the Herald.

More >>

As an update to this story, the NSW Parliament passed amendments on Friday of last week to the Forestry Act 2012 as part of the Energy Legislation Amendment Bill to enable clean energy developments such as wind energy to be established in State forest pine plantations.

CEO Forestry Corporation Anshul Chaudhary said the opportunity to add to the sustainability of the already renewable timber resource was exciting. “We’ve seen great examples of renewable energy being produced in plantations interstate and overseas while maintaining a strong supply of timber and it’s exciting to open the doors to this new opportunity to grow renewable energy production in NSW.

For further comment, click here

Source: SMH, FCNSW

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Australia’s Bioenergy Roadmap released

Australia’s potential as a bioenergy powerhouse has been unveiled in the Australian Renewable Agency’s (ARENA) Bioenergy Roadmap, which recognises the potential of industrial heat in Australia’s future renewable energy mix.

Australian Forest Products Association (AFPA) CEO Ross Hampton said the inclusion of renewable heat in the Roadmap is a major breakthrough as it recognises that a lot of the energy used in manufacturing is for heating processes rather than electricity generation. “The Roadmap predicts that renewable industrial heat uptake could more than double by 2050 through targeted policies to encourage energy-intensive manufacturers to transition to bioenergy, especially in ‘waste-generating’ processes that can be readily used as feedstock, as is the case in our timber and paper mills,” Mr Hampton said.

“This report confirms that Australia’s bioenergy expansion opportunity is huge, and that sustainably-sourced forestry biomass (such as sawmill residues) makes up a fifth of Australia’s untapped bioenergy resource potential. “AFPA has been urging the major political parties to recognise the significant opportunities for renewable heat and bioenergy from wood residues which would significantly reduce energy costs and carbon emissions from essential manufacturing processes.

“Crucially, all Australian wood and paper products are made from sustainably-sourced wood that is replanted or regenerated, ensuring that there is no net loss in forest area and continuing the carbon cycle,” Mr Hampton said. This is consistent with the internationally accepted science. The United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change makes it clear that biomass energy sourced from sustainably managed forests is carbon neutral and renewable.

“That is why Australia’s forest industries are carbon positive and ideally positioned to play an even greater role in Australia’s Net Zero Emissions by 2050 goal,” Mr Hampton said.

Source: AFPA

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Intelligent City opens its first urban housing factory

After developing and commissioning robotic technology to provide turn-key homes, Intelligent City has begun building urban housing projects in the company’s new factory on River Road in North Delta, British Columbia.

This marks the completion of an extensive testing agenda to verify the performance of the company’s Platforms for Life (P4L) building system in accordance with the Encapsulated Mass Timber Construction (EMTC) building code.

Intelligent City combines several technologies to design, manufacture, and deliver buildings as customizable one-stop solutions. An adaptable building platform made from large mass timber assemblies forms the foundation. Its co-founders Cindy Wilson and Oliver Lang, who have worked in architecture for 25 years, led the company with their vision since it was founded in 2008.

“Today marks a very important milestone for Intelligent City. We are leading the housing industry through a product- and platform-based approach to address affordability, liveability and climate change issues. We are now the first in the world to use advanced robotics to automatically assemble mass timber building systems that have been tested to meet the latest building code and net zero standards,” said Oliver Lang.

Intelligent City is focused on the construction of mid-to-high-rise urban housing as well as commercial buildings through the convergence of mass timber, design engineering, automated manufacturing, and proprietary software. The company is currently working on project totalling 2880 homes in Canada and 1400 homes in the U.S., many of which are supported by BC Wood.

To offer flexibility, the company has integrated its building platform in a proprietary, automated, software and manufacturing workflow. Both allow for a high level of customization without causing any added complexities or cost. The company is expected to deliver its first projects in early 2022 in Vancouver, BC.

Source: Canadian Architect, Photo: Intelligent City

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New look for key NZ Agritech event

Celebrating 10 years as New Zealand’s most popular agritech event, MobileTECH Ag, has been rebranded to DigitalAg. The 2022 event will be taking place in Rotorua in March 2022. “We are excited about the name change, as digital agriculture is a better fit for the future of the event and where technology is evolving,” said Innovatek’s programme manager, Ken Wilson.

“When we started the programme a decade ago, mobile technologies like ‘smartphones’, tablets, GIS and drones were gaining momentum with early adopters within the sector. Fast-forward to 2021, all phones are ‘smart’. No longer is mobile tech a leading feature for innovation. It’s now just a given.”

While there are still issues around rural connectivity and farmer adoption, the focus on technology is clearly around digital platforms. The ability to make practical decisions from real-time data is what is driving productivity for the agricultural and horticultural industries.

Continued advances in AI, machine learning, data-capture and big data are enabling new innovations to be developed and adopted every year. Machine vision, where video cameras give computer’s the ability to see, is being used to identify weeds, pick fruit, drive robotic vehicles and monitor individual animals. Systems analysing satellite and aerial images can detect soil deficiencies, weather predictions and carbon mapping. We also have wearable sensors that are tracking animal health, optimising equipment productivity and improving farm safety.

Whether the data comes from video, imagery, sensors, or a combination of each, it is the algorithms within AI and machine learning that are driving better fact-based decisions. “DigitalAg 2022 will showcase new agritech developments and provide a platform for the sector to come together, discuss the issues and encourage collaboration,” said Mr Wilson.

“We have worked closely with the agritech industry to create an innovative two-day programme and are excited to meet up next year.” Details on the DigitalAg 2022 programme are now available. The event runs on 30-31 March 2022 in Rotorua, New Zealand. Further details can be found on the event website,

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Red Stag paying bonus to vaccinated staff

Christmases are coming early for Red Stag Timber staff and contractors with NZ$3,000 bonusses for those who get vaccinated and stay up to date with booster shots next year. The company is paying the bonuses after being on track to achieve budgets without the need for last year’s wage subsidy.

“We decided to give it back” explains group CEO Marty Verry, “and figure our staff will put it to better use locally than central government.” The NZ$2,000 bonus this December and NZ$1,000 next December is tied to vaccination status.

“Obviously we want all our staff, their families and work colleagues to be safe and have as much protection from Covid as possible”, says Verry. “But equally we are conscious that there are dozens of merchant clients and thousands of trades people down-stream from Red Stag that rely on its structural timber to keep building next year. New Zealand needs us to keep producing. You could say we are using this bonus to try to put the fence at the top of the cliff, and prevent Covid in the workforce, rather than having to react to shutdowns”.

“There is also the matter of inflation, which is running hot. We want to help staff get through this hump and have a great Christmas. It’s been a fairly tumultuous year and the team have gone above and beyond to work overtime to keep up with market needs. They deserve it.”

Red Stag is also conscious of its role as the largest private employer in the Rotorua district where vaccination rates are low and many businesses have been severely affected by the lack of international tourism. “If we can trigger higher vaccine protection and get more funds into the community, we can help get Rotorua to an orange or green light in December and support the local economy” he says.

“Further out, we can see a collapse of the construction market within two years also. We may be the next tourism industry the way population growth is being choked by government restrictions on immigration. We’re paying bonuses while we still can”, adds Verry.

Source: Red Stag Timber

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AFPA Board confirmed ahead of critical federal election

The Australian Forest Products Association (AFPA) has confirmed long serving chair Greg McCormack will continue in the role alongside a reaffirmed board of directors at its 2021-2022 Annual General Meeting this week. Greg McCormack said AFPA’s Board was united on the Association’s priorities to advocate for Australia’s forest industries in 2022, a critical federal election year. AFPA confirmed Greg McCormack (Chair), Jean Yves Nouaze (Deputy Chair), Ian Telfer (Treasurer), Diana Gibbs, Jon Kleinschmidt, Stephen Dadd, James Malone, Jessica Douglas, Mark Rogers, Craig Dunn, and Steve Whiteley, as the new AFPA Board for 2022-2023.

Source: AFPA

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Buy and Sell

... and one to end the week on ... the engineer

Three men are sentenced to death. They are to be killed by the guillotine. The first man was a priest. The executioner says, “You can go on the guillotine either face up or face down.”

The priest says, “I want to die face up, looking up to the heavens.” So the priest lies face up. The executioner releases the blade; the blade falls rapidly but suddenly stops just 1 inch from the priest’s neck. Given the miracle, the priest is allowed to walk free.

The next man was an alcoholic. The executioner offers him the same choice, “Do you want to lie facing up or facing down?” The alcoholic says, “I want to face up … to remember my glorious drinking days.”

So the alcoholic lies face up. The executioner releases the blade, and again, it suddenly stops just 1 inch from the man’s neck. Given the miracle, the alcoholic is allowed to walk free.

Finally, it’s the last man’s turn. He’s an engineer. Once again, the executioner offers him the same choice, “Face up or face down?”

The engineer scratches his head and says, “Face up I guess.” So the engineer lies face up. Just as the executioner is about to release the blade, the engineer starts shouting. “Wait! Wait! I think I can see the problem!”

And on that note, enjoy your weekend. Cheers.

Brent Apthorp
Editor, Friday Offcuts
Distinction Dunedin Hotel
6 Liverpool Street, Dunedin 9016, New Zealand
PO Box 904, Dunedin 9054, New Zealand
Tel: +64 (03) 470 1902, Mob: +64 21 227 5177, Fax: +64 (03) 470 1906
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